Friday, January 30, 2009

Purple is the best color in the world

The fact that purple is the best color in the world is self-evident to both of my children, but only the older one could provide some background on the matter.

"So Genevieve, why is purple the best color in the world?"

"Well, back in the old days, it used to be a color that only royalty could wear purple -- you know, only kings and queens -- but then other people, they wanted to wear purple too, and now anyone can wear it and that's why it's the best."

Well, at least it didn't have anything to do with the Vikings (you know, that football team from Minnesota?).

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Does 'sigh' have an emoticon?

As I've indicated, there has been some drama in our house as of late with our older (five year old) daughter. For example, being sent for timeout because she failed to act on a parental request.

First, the last second attempt to comply with the request once she realizes that she has incurred the timeout consequence:

"No, wait! I'm doing it! See! No, no.... I'm doooooing it!" she wails as she is shooed of to her bedroom.

Then, the screaming and door slamming (oooh, extra two minutes for that).

"I WAS doing it. You... YOU are MAKING this bad!" she bellows at the top of her well-exercised lungs. [Sigh] Just think--when the weather gets warmer and the windows are opened, we'll be able to share these moments with the entire neighborhood.

Finally, Genevieve and I had our moderated talk. She-Who-Referees-Family-Disputes presided. It went remarkably well considering how difficult it is for a 5-year old to listen plainly to the impact of her tantrums. Genevieve wants us to treat each other more nicely. I am willing to do that, but she needs to be able to listen and respond to my requests.

I was detailed about the difficulties of her behavior during pickup at her pre-school, and she agreed to cooperate fully with departure if I would give her two minutes after my arrival. We agreed on that, but haven't decided on what happens if she is not cooperative. The natural consequence of being late for the bus (daddy has to stand out in the cold and extend his homeward commute by another half hour, the rest of the family eating dinner a half-hour later) imposes penalties on many other people than Genevieve, and she's just as happy playing in the snow at the bus stop and having my attention for more time.

So, we need something else, and haven't figured it out yet. We'll start finding out how this chat went beginning this Wednesday.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Gruffalo rhymes with Buffalo

Oh, I can see the end of the days of my deep and daily involvement with children's picture books -- it's not here yet, but a couple-three-four years and we'll be on to other things. Sigh. I'll enjoy it while I can.

The Gruffalo's Child
Author: Julia Donaldson
Illustrator: Axel Scheffler

I shouldn't miss another winter reading season without mentioning this one. A story with rhythm and rhyme, a little suspense, identification of animal body parts, and an easy-to-identify-with monster protagonist. The Gruffalo child is a girl, and we meet her, her Gruffalo daddy, and the forest animals she encounters on her search for the Big Bad Mouse.

I love the playful detail in the illustrations: the progression of the weather during the story (from snowing hard to clear and starry); the forest trees that can look like they have a face; the stick doll carried by the Gruffalo child; and the "animal extras" that look on from the dark of the forest.

I think this is our third winter with the book, and it has not suffered from repeated readings (even a few in the summer months).

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Once upon a time there was a girl-boy

Girl story (left)

Once upon a time (WNS APN A TM)
There was a little girl (THR WS A LTAL GRAL)
Whose parents were delighted (HWSE PRANS W DEELITAD)
So they lived happily ever after (SO THE LD HL E E)

Genevieve said she ran out of space on the page to spell out the last few words.

Boy story (right)

Once upon a time (WNS APN A TM)
There was a boy (THER WS A BOY)
... (can't decipher or recall)
flower pick (FLWR PK)

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The era of f-r-u-i-t

Lately, when I look at Genevieve, I see the end of an era. The independence she is attempting to exert, the complexity of her thinking, her physical growth and language development--all signs of her readiness for kindergarden. By Erikson's eight stages of development, she has mastered the third stage of "learning initiative versus guilt" (development of purpose). It seems like she is going back for seconds on the second stage in which a child deals with the development of will, and maybe she will continue to deal with that as she continues to develop in other areas.

Put in a more immediate way, I look at Genevieve and see that my little dependent daddy's girl has grown up into a somewhat bigger I-am-my-own-girl.

Another end of an era has also arrived. That of the secret parent language called spelling. Used to be that if we wanted to have secrets in front of the kids, we could just spell things. That time is going-going-gone. Yesterday at the dinner table, Genevieve requested more food. To be on the same page with She-Who-Cares-About-What-Her-Children-Eat, I quietly and quickly said, "We could do f-r-u-i-t."

Genevieve immediately piped in: "Fruit. Yeah, I want fruit!"

Now I wish that I had a second language fluency in common with my wife. Maybe we'll try Morse code.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Calm, wet and snowy

I was able to speak more extensively with my wife, and I no longer feel the urgent need to put my daughter in hour long time-outs on a daily basis, which is much better for everyone. Genevieve and I have not yet had our moderated talk, and I can't say as though everything is smooth, but we are both .... a little more careful with each other?

Tonight, the girls wanted to sleep in their mermaid den instead of their beds. They've had a mermaid infatuation for the past two weeks, thanks to the Backyardigans. Most special sleeping dens have been located in their closet as of late. It turns out that a clean closet has room to be favorite play spot, and their closet has been a number of places, from a house to a restaurant to a secret hiding spot.

Anyway, their mermaid den was not the closet. They wanted to spend the night in the bathtub. Maybe tomorrow night I'll let them try that experiment, but I wasn't up for it tonight.

Winter brings small, brief moments of wonder to me on my mile-long walk home from the bus. On Christmas week, I came upon an owl in the tree next to a native American burial mound. I stopped and looked at her for a while and then, perhaps tired of being stared at, she launched and flew on.

Last night, I took a detour to stand out on the lake. The snow was falling heavily, weighing down the city noises across the lake and putting the nearby bay shores in fuzzy grey. Suddenly, I was surprised to see a fox running perpendicular to my line of travel across the bay, 50 yards on, moving at a steady gallop toward on whatever destination that was suddenly more secretly accessible over the ice and through the snow.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Fed up

My daughter and I will be having a moderated problem solving session soon. Within one minute of rising this morning, I heard myself saying to the children, "What? Are you deaf?" It was not a sparkly daddy moment, and I later apologized. But my right-out-of-the-gate breakdown this morning is merely a symptom of a wider issue.

My wife points out that I am engaged in a recent cycle of power struggles with our older daughter, and She-Who-Is-On-My-Side offered advice on other potential approaches. While this may be a correct analysis of the situation, this was not well received by yours truly. You see, I feel like I've tried those different approaches, over and over, and I am officially FED UP.

Genevieve recently spent over an hour in her room for repeated tantrums and non-cooperation, and it was a pleasant hour for me and boring for her. It got her attention. That reinforced my view of a new approach with clear-cut and rapidly increasing consequences. Though I am uncertain as to it's long-term success, I do know that the other suggestions have not worked. My wife thinks that if I improved my application of different approaches, then that could bring about change, but I now believe that my daughter behaves differently with me even if I relate to her exactly as does her mother. Where I'm at now is that I've tried the change daddy approach with no success, and I am now trying the change daughter approach.

This is an evolving thing, and She-Who-Is-On-My-Side and I have more talking to do. What is certain is that we do have a parental difference of opinion and a strained father-daughter relationship.

Health care and fruit

Genevieve still pronounces that word to describe emergency vehicles with extensive medical equipment and sirens as am'-blee-ence.

Reesa says hos-ta-ble for that large medical complex that ambleences take their injured patients to. She also enjoys eating those curvy tropical fruits with the yellow skin that you peel off to get to the yummy insides: the bi-ya-na.

The girls also reached a joint agreement that Clementine oranges have two parts: the clemen (the outer skin that you peel off) and the tine (the inner part that you eat).

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Chore chart

Genevieve did a "chore chart." More like a chore and personal values chart. Here's the chart and her interpretation. The blanks in my table were items she couldn't remember.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

A cleaner, bleached-out world

I tucked Genevieve and Reesa into bed, and sat down in a corner of the room to do some laptop reading. Staying in the room for a short time can help them settle down more quickly. After a couple of minutes of silence, Genevieve started talking softly. Before I could ask her to quiet herself, I heard the content of what she was saying and decided to not interrupt.

"A cleaner world gives us a healthy environment.
"A healthy environment makes a world for healthy people.
"A cleaner healthier world for children to grow up in."

Wow. Such heartwarming, eco-sentiments from my five-year old. My green heart swelled with pride. Our household examples were being absorbed by our child! The world would indeed be a better place! My daughter is so perceptive, so articulate -- she's ready to be president someday!

And then, she added the kicker:

"Clorox--bringing you a cleaner world."

@!#!!!!...sizzle%$%..fry?@#*!%..pop! Thump! (last sound was my jaw striking the floor)

"What did you say?" I whispered.

She recapped for me. "When the world is a cleaner place, and the outside is clean, then we can all be healthy."

"Yeah, yeah, not that. Um, where did you hear that?"

She paused. In retrospect, her recitation sounded like a data dump, and it felt like she was trying to find the file and retrieve the information.

"It was on PBS Kids, at the end of the program."

More evidence that public broadcasting has both sponsorships and commercials. When a kid absorbs it like a commercial, it's a commercial. Kinda funny that PBS has some webpages on being media smart--they should have a page on being smart about their own commercials. These are skills that we will have to concentrate on teaching our children, and it looks like we'll need to get it in high gear starting now.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Castle! Castle!

Isn't it curious how children relate to traveling around town? in the development of the ability to have a mental map of their surroundings?

One thing the children relate to are local landmarks, and the general proximity of certain landmarks to certain other landmarks. Many of the landmarks they have are very close to home--we pass those most frequently. Also, there are landmarks near frequent destinations. At an intersection on the route to their preschool, two buildings with crenellations (one with a crenellated turret) are situated opposite each other. Genevieve associated this feature with castles at age three, and Reesa still cries out "Castle! Castle!" whenever we pass the intersection.

As for going around our local area, our children currently think that any local landmark is readily available on any car trip. Over the holidays, there is a light display in the shape of a horse, and they frequently ask to drive past it even if we are on the other side of town going in an opposite direction. When you're not driving and never have driven a car and are very young, I suppose that stuff outside the window is sort of like a television with a DVD player--just ask to plug in a local landmark to watch go by.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Insert name of child here

"I have to go pee-pee!" announces our three-year-old Reesa, looking at me while standing up with her hand between her legs.

"Okay, run to the bathroom," I say, duly fulfilling my role in her bathroom ritual. She doesn't need my blessing, but if she cannot get a permissive response from a parent, she will continue to stand there and try to get one. I suppose that I could try and train her out of the ritual, but at some point I look at the big picture. The big picture includes some internal and mysterious gauges measuring a variety of father/husband energy levels, including Overall Energy, Patience Energy, and Creative Energy. These are three of the items at the center of my emotional dashboard, and all are critical for successful problem solving or getting out of jams.

In terms of this exchange, which I or my wife will face many of the times that the tyke feels the call of nature, I just figure it's a ritual whose time will pass and I don't spend any of my energies on it. I save those energies for the other things that I (rightly or wrongly) seem to think that she should be ready to get. You know, stuff like (insert appropriate name, or select one item, at bolded text):

  • "Name of child, what is this name of clothing article doing in the middle of the hallway?"
  • "Name of child, are you jumping/standing/climbing on that name of piece of furniture?"
  • "Name of child, are you are using your outside voice on the inside of my house?"
  • "Name of child, what are you doing with that pen/pencil/crayon/marker/paint brush?"
  • "Name of child, no, you may not change your clothes for the third/fourth/fifth/etc. time today."
  • "Name of child, did you wash your hands after going to the bathroom? And don't tell me that you did, because you are out of there much too quickly."
  • "Names of all children in the house, who used the toilet last? I want you to come over here now because you need to flush it/I need to talk to you about the 3 yards of toilet paper stuffed in there."
Looking over the list, it boils down to: Hygiene, housekeeping, and preservation of peace and assets. Hmm, that looks about right.